Richard Allan, Liberal MP for Sheffield Hallam, won the coveted Internet Hero award on Thursday night at the ISP Association's annual ceremony, the ISPAs.
The Internet Hero award is given to people who "deserve a slap on the back for a job well done in promoting, developing or defending the interests of the Internet industry", according to ISPA.
Allan has been instrumental in trying to sort out a tangle of UK laws that could lead ISPs into a legal quagmire. The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG), of which Allan is joint treasurer, recently published the results of its public inquiry into the issue.
Specifically, the issue centres on incompatibilities between the Terrorism Act, which contains measures that would force ISPs to retain all communications data of customers for several years for reasons of national security, and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act which, once that data is retained, allows widespread access to it from many government agencies. ISPs worry -- and their concerns were largely confirmed by the APIG report -- that complying with these new measures could expose them to legal action under the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act.
The problem is routinely blamed on lawmakers who have little experience or knowledge about the Internet industry. Allan, a former IT consultant, acknowledged the concerns of industry as he collected his award. "It's a funny business working in the Internet part of the political community," he told the audience. "There are about 30 MPs who have some kind of Internet experience out of a total of more than 600. If you get fed up with the 21st century and want to move back into the 19th century then I would urge you to engage in politics -- after all you get to work in a central location and there is free parking."
Other nominees for the Internet Hero award were last year's winner Elizabeth France, the former information commissioner, Secretary of State David Blunkett's son Hugh, APIG, and Home Office official Simon Watkin, who ended up collecting the Internet Villain award on behalf of his department.
To find out the other award winners, click here.